Sourwood Tree, Sorrel Tree
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Two views of a 13 year old
specimen, flowering mid July to August.
Three photos showing color in early September (left), early October (center)
and mid October after leaf drop (right).
Our native Sourwood Tree is a beautiful, slow-growing tree, among the
very best of small, ornamental trees suitable for the garden. The tree is
native to a large portion of eastern United States from Pennsylvania south
the Florida, and west to Illinois. Despite it's southerly distribution it is
perfectly hardy north in USDA Zone 5. It's preference for higher mountain
elevations in the south may help explain it's hardiness. The genus Oxydendrum
only has this single species, very close to Pieris and Lyonia, yet unique on
account of it's deciduous rather than evergreen growth cycle. The
gracefully drooping flowers are reminiscent of Pieris.
While I classify this as a "small tree", reportedly it grows up to 80' in it's
native habitats. In cultivation it is rare indeed to see a tree as large as 30',
and most trees I have seen are under 20' tall. This is certainly due to the
fact the tree is very slow growing, so it's unlikely to outgrow it's allocated
space in a gardener's lifetime... particularly if grown in sun. The tree
shown in this gallery was planted as a 4' whip 13 years ago in 1988. It
is now about 6-1/2' tall, with a nicely branched crown. It is growing in full
sun, in rather poor soil, perhaps contributing to it's slow growth, as it's a
tree that likes moist, rich soils, yet tolerant of a variety of conditions.
Click on the images above to see larger, more complete photos, and
All photos by Mark McDonough
Questions or comments on this page? Contact Mark McDonough at email@example.com.
Images and textual content copyright © 2000 Mark McDonough
This page was last updated on 11/11/01